We need a Gang of 16 in the Senate and a Gang of 24 in the House! In 2013, the term Gang of 8 became the monicker used to describe a coalition of eight Senators — 4 Republicans and 4 Democrats — who agreed to work together toward a bipartisan Immigration Reform bill. The Senate passed the resulting bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, by a vote of 68-32 [a veto-proof majority], with 14 Republicans joining all Democrats. Unfortunately, the House [under Speaker John Boehner] did not act on the bill, and it expired at the end of the 113th Congress.
Although that specific effort ended in nothing productive, I think the time is right to reconsider that concept from a much broader perspective. Let’s look at the concept. … Eight people out of a hundred decided that trying to work together across party lines on a mutually recognized worthwhile goal was better than each party always circling its wagons and opposing the other. The result was a veto-proof piece of legislation passed by the Senate.
Had a comparable coalition been formed in the House, it would be logical to assume that some bill could have been passed in the House — if not with a veto-proof majority, at least a House-passed bill that go to Conference Committee along with the Senate-passed bill [which is how our law-making process is supposed to work, but which unfortunately has become a much-too-rare activity].
So the end result would have been that fewer than 10% of the members of the Legislature would have been the catalyst for action that produced a tangible result — a joint bill that both parties had always agreed would be a good one to have going to the President.
How Would The “Gang Of …” Concept play Out Today?
The numbers today would suggest that a Gang of 16 [8 Democrats and 8 Republicans] would be needed in the Senate and a Gang of 24 [12 Democrats and 12 Republicans] would be needed in the House — that’s only 16% of Senators and less than 6% of Representatives [less than 8% of the entire Legislature]. Given the “don’t take the blinders off — just press the party line” mindset so prevalent in our Legislature these days, maybe there aren’t enough sensible people there to work with, but in the hope that there are and that the “Gang Of …” concept can work even in this polarized environment, here’s how it could play out. …
Both the Senate Gang of 16 and the House Gang of 24 commit to each other that if they can craft compromise bills that they would all have voted to pass had they come to their respective floors absent their efforts, they will all vote to pass them in their respective chambers [i.e., no yielding to pressure from their party leadership, and no backing off for self-serving individual political “grandstanding”!]. The Senate Gang of 16 would be providing 8 Democrat votes, which if all other Republicans rally around the work of these eight colleagues of theirs [and yes, around the fact that it’s a bipartisan result], would result in the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster [and therefore in a Senate-passed version of the bill]. The House Gang of 24 would be providing 12 Democrat votes, which with some combination of 12 or more additional Democrats and/or 35 or fewer Republican defectors, would result in a House-passed version of the bill. Generally, depending on the President’s party affiliation and whether the joint bill passed with veto-proof majorities, that bill might still fail to become law — but in the current political mix, it most likely would become law. In any event, at least all the steps of the process would have been followed, and any failure to become law would have come about in the manner provided by the Constitution [rather than in a manner conjured up by politicians (Senate and House rules)]. That in itself would be a huge improvement over the current totally dysfunctional state.
The weak link in this chain remains Republicans because even one hold-out would kill the Senate version of the bill. Surely, however, the obviously-increased pressure against “bucking the party” would keep Senators who might otherwise be hold-outs from actually following through with that inclination [the public’s ire against them would certainly be greater than it has been so far].
So Are There Even 40 Bipartisans Among 535?
In closing, I’m reminded of the account in Genesis 18:20-33 where Abraham is “bargaining” with God to see if there is a way to keep Him from destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham says, “What if there are 50 righteous people in the city? Will You really sweep it away instead of sparing the place for the sake of the 50 righteous people who are in it?” God says “Yes”, so Abraham presses on. “What if there are 45?”, then 40, etc., until he gets down to 10 [obviously, based on the outcome, there weren’t even 10]. Adapting that concept to the point of this Blog post, my question to all 535 Legislators is “Are there even 8 Democrats and 8 Republicans in the Senate, and 12 Democrats and 12 Republicans in the House, who will be bipartisan enough to step out and do this?
Charles M. Jones